How to make a personal comic world. B and Fang Strip #1
Comics is hard! Or Comics ARE hard!
This simple strip was years in the making! Almost 20! I won't go into the details of ALL 20 years, but there are some recent items worth pointing out.
The important starting place is to know that I have been wanting to create a comic strip (or comic world) that I could really allow to become deep with everything I believe and feel and wonder about. Loft goals. So I have been stuck for YEARS trying to do this.
I became marginally unstuck when I created the B. character (the guy with the spiky hair.) I worked with him for about a year . And knew I wanted to deepen his world, and get to know his context and give him something to do, I mean except DIE.
I knew there was a woman, she was alternately Klargh, Klang, Kate Bush and then Fang. Why Fang? It seemed like a mean, dumb thing he might name her, and I want it to show how ugly he can be. Also I don't know the whole story yet. Maybe there is just some confusion there. But until we know, we assume the worst. Which is alright for now.
Then there's the thing about FORMAT. The B. is Dying strips were all a certain horizontal shape and I wanted to continue with that shape and so I kept creating page shapes that were one of those, or two of those, stacked (see above.) But I can't explain it, it never felt right. Not until I HAD to do something for the web and for swiping culture did I decide to do something Instagram sized; square panels, square page. And it feels right.
And the worst was planning and planning and making sure I knew what was going to happen. And so I made outlines and plans. I still want to be a few steps ahead, like Al Capp used to do in L'il Abner, for instance.
And then there's drawing the damn thing. An early version of this moment didn't have B doing anything.
Here, I have him reaching for a turtle. Why a turtle? Well, I'm glad you asked.
I recently turned 50, and realizing that I wasn't going to suddenly have new spiritual ideas or practices suddenly gifted to me unless I went looking for them. One thing I did, while sleeping outdoors one night, was ask the ground, the earth, whatever, if I had a spirit animal.
A turtle, a small turtle showed itself to me. This resonated (I've always loved them) and ok, I believe.
And so I decided every day to wake up believing I was guided by a turtle, and so far, it's been working wonderfully. If Alan Moore can worship a snake, I can worship a turtle (and for the same reasons, listen to his thoughts on magic and the mind.)
So, if I am going to make this strip and this character and this world, matter to me, let's make sure there are turtles there. I have no idea what role they will play.
So then I drew strip one sort of rushing through it because I didn't want to lose the momentum, but I didn't really have an idea for what he was saying in panels 1 and 2. When eventually I sat down to write something, the panel I drew for panel 1 (below) was inappropriate. The reaching was wrong, though I had a lot of fun drawing that hand. And I had been thinking it was kind of fun writing in the "Stan Lee method" of drawing first and writing next, I realized the writing is too important to do that. So I had to redraw panel 1.
Oh, and the smears on panel 3. MY CAT.
Panel 4 was inspired by this image of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan (from The Miracle Worker)
I drew it over and over again, and it's not even the same image at all. More about that some other post...
Finally, Samuel Beckett. One reason B. is named what he is, and why he looks that way, is to keep Beckett at the fore in mind. Every time I draw B's hair, I am trying to touch Beckett's hair, I am re-imagining Beckett in my mind. It's a deep, mystical delight and one reason I hope not to convert my drawing process to a tablet any time soon-- I LIKE drawing B's hair slowly, ineffectively, sometimes full of mistakes, with ink.
But I have a feeling I will just like everyone, move to what is efficient. I'll ask the turtle if that's the right path.